Turtle River racers brave cold for inaugural event


February 11, 2019

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

Jon Moreno, of Minneapolis, skis toward the finish line of the first leg of the Turtle River Pursuit Saturday at the MECCA Ski Trails in Mercer. The second leg of the race took place Sunday at the WinMan Trails in Manitowish Waters. The fastest overall time won the race.



MERCER, Wis. - Temperatures may have been below zero early Saturday, but the mercury rose by race time and the competitors took off without a hitch at this weekend's inaugural Turtle River Pursuit cross country ski race.

"We lucked out. While the weather was cold - it was 29 below I think Saturday morning at 6 a.m. - by 11 a.m. (when the race started) it was just above zero. This morning at the WinMan it was five or six above," said Mike Shouldice, the president of the MECCA Ski Trails in Mercer and one of the race organizers. "The snow we got last week allowed the grooming crew to just do a fantastic job. It groomed up firm so the skate-skiers had a nice flat bed for skating and the classic skiers had a nice firm set of tracks to ski in."

The pursuit-style race took place over two days, with skiers completing an 11-kilometer classic, striding skiing course Saturday at MECCA trails in Mercer and another 11-kilometer freestyle race Sunday at the WinMan Trails in Manitowish Waters.

The two times were combined to determine an overall winner.

"It was fantastic. We had folks from Minneapolis, folks from Chicago, all over Wisconsin; a lot of them had never experienced the MECCA and WinMan trails before and they were just so positive about the snow conditions, the grooming, the event itself," Shouldice said. "It was wonderful, we had a ball."

Local Jonathon Rulseh, of Ironwood, won the men's event, with an overall time of 1:09:44.8. Lisa Nadler, of Chicago, was the fastest woman with an overall time of 1:38:32.1.

Shouldice thanked the volunteers and community support that made the event possible, noting there was almost a 1:1 ratio of volunteers and competitors.

"The visitors to the Mercer and Manitowish Waters community were just overwhelmed with the friendliness of our towns," he said.

Along with bringing people to the area, race organizers hoped the event would showcase the two trail systems.

To further help this goal, Shouldice said the race has created a "community pursuit" fund which will fund activities that encourage families, kids and seniors to use the trails.

"The community pursuit is a way to keep the Turtle River Pursuit in the news and in the minds of the community year-round," Shouldice said. "We'll get hikers and bikers out in the summer time.

"The whole purpose of the community pursuit was to get people out on the trails, getting fresh air, getting exercise and enjoying a healthy lifestyle."

This effort has already been put into action, with both the senior Fe University and kids from the Mercer School having opportunities to learn to cross-country ski on the trails.

Organizers are also focused on the second annual race, which Shouldice said is scheduled for Feb. 8-9, 2020.


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